As a property owner, it’s important to take necessary measures to reduce the risk of a slip, trip or fall. The potential for accidents is not just inside the building, but also around the exterior portions of the property. From the parking lot and walkways to areas inside the building, the risk of injury starts the minute anyone arrives on property. However, the issue is not that property owners don’t recognize the risks involved, it’s that the traditional method of managing slip, trip and fall risks, which is typically focused solely on physical hazards, isn’t working. According to data from The Hartford, an average of 80% of real estate industry liability claims over the past two years have been related to slips, trips and falls. And this outpaces the next leading claim type times six.
The Time to Act Is Now
As the data reveals, slip, trip and fall liability claims are a leading cause of loss for real estate businesses, and litigation trends indicate that they are expected to continue to grow in both frequency and size. It is important that property owners reevaluate their current risk management processes and technology, and implement a well-defined comprehensive slip, trip and fall prevention plan that helps prevent injuries.
In three simple ways, property owners can find that by leveraging technology and applying fundamental business processes to managing slip, trip and fall exposures, they will fundamentally reduce their likelihood and severity of incurring incidents. And having the latest technology in place can instantly become a key differentiator in reducing the impact of claims.
However, such investments require fully understanding the end goal before making the commitment. Of course, technology is powerful, but its effectiveness is only maximized when combined with business expertise.
Step 1: Create a Slip, Trip and Fall Prevention and Management Strategy
People face slip, trip and fall risks the moment they enter a property. The Hartford’s analysis found that 51% of slip, trip and fall claims happened in the parking lot or outside of a building, which is why it is important to look both inside and outside of the building when trying to address risks like parking lots, walkways, staircases, and lobby.
It is imperative for property owners and managers to understand where their responsibility lies in order to provide safe spaces for people entering and exiting their commercial building and office park. Knowing this level of responsibility can then help guide a strategy to reduce potential liabilities and subsequentially save money. Additionally, real estate ownership should leverage engineering and technology, access controls, manage changing conditions, and maintain a consistent claim response. These tactics will all come in handy when creating a slip, trip and fall prevention management plan.
Step 2: Use Technology to Help Reduce Risks
Installing cameras in a building can also help property owners manage slips, trips, and falls by using the data and footage from the cameras’ recording to build business defenses should someone bring a lawsuit. However, when using cameras in the building it should be understood to cover all common areas, including the parking spaces, and focus on areas where floor surfaces change from outdoor to indoor, where elevation changes or where sections with hazards are, like a water fountain.
It would also be prudent to use motion detection sensors with the cameras as well as local lighting and infrared illumination to better monitor the areas under consideration. Motion detectors and signs at specific doorways can also control access to the building to avoid inadvertent injuries. Some technology can even send a notification to a smartphone or computer if it senses motion at a specific door. In addition, property owners and their delegates should keep recording archives for as long as required in accordance with local state laws and have an information technology resource maintain the camera system to be sure it works correctly.
Regardless of the technology though, sometimes it is the people such as employees, staff and tenants who can provide some of the greatest intel against exposures to slips, trips and falls. They can be a valuable source of information and notify property owners and managers of any new risks or hazards. But it can take encouragement to help people get engaged such as posting signs with QR codes to help them file a report or publicizing a number that people can text to report spills or other tripping hazards. Offering small rewards for submitting a report, such as branded items, can also help solicit ambassadors for the slip, trip and fall prevention management plan.
Step 3: Adapt to Changing Conditions
It’s natural that accidents happen, which can create new slip, trip and fall hazards in the building. This may include spills in the cafeteria, hallways or elevator lobbies, water on the restroom floor, and wet floors from people walking in and out of the building when it’s raining. Therefore, it is essential to address these types of hazards quickly. A good way to do this is to use mats at entrances and exits. Proprietors can also partner with a construction or architecture team to install slip-resistant floor surfaces and examine whether the distance between the sink and dryer or towel station is the cause for water buildup on the floor of restrooms.
Property managers and staff should also regularly inspect the cafeteria and restrooms, keeping up with any spills to clean them quickly, and create a formal spill response plan and train all employees on what to do if they see a wet spot. And they should not forget about parking lots because these areas are one of the leading locations of slips, trips and falls. Using closed-circuit TV monitoring and recording of the entire parking area is great way to surveil the location.
Other good management and maintenance tips for parking areas include evaluating lighting needs and whether they activate by motion or time, as well as identifying and highlighting elevation changes in parking lots and walkways, especially those with contrasting colors or lighting. Some additional common-sense rules include conducting visual inspections of all walkways and the parking area to identify hazards, followed by cleaning any surfaces that accumulate dirt or debris. And if the parking area is located in a region known for seasonal snow and ice, property owners and managers need to be vigilant with removal and smelt.
What to Do if a Slip, Trip and Fall Occurs
Making sure the business is prepared and knows what to do if a slip, trip and fall happens on the property, can have a significant impact on the severity of claims against the business. First and foremost, it is vital to identify and react to the incident as quickly as possible and always treat the customer with compassion and respect. If the injury is life-threatening or the client requests assistance, it is right to call 911.
Having a prepared incident report ready and available to staff always is helpful for record-keeping and consistency, and it allows for post-incident reviews to make necessary corrections and prevent future accidents.
So, it goes without saying that preparation is key — before and after — in order to help manage and mitigate the risks associated with slips, trips and falls.
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